A sea of learning
by James Walerych
When choosing my Sue Ash day personal development opportunity, I had a several ideas in mind but my inner petrolhead made the decision easier. My choice was a Personal Watercraft (PWC) training course in Southampton.
The day began for me at 9am on a brisk Sunday morning in November and my first thoughts when reaching the centre was 'why did I not choose to do it in the Caribbean or Australia?' But to be honest I was really looking forward to it.
After signing in, it was into the classroom where we underwent a quick Q&A about what was required when you set out on a journey with your PWC. You may think just a GPS and mobile phone are required but you have to take everything from a small anchor to laminated charts of where you are going.
It was then on with the drysuits and out into the icy chill of the marina to go through the pre-ride checks, which included the oil, fuel and general condition of the craft to ensure it was seaworthy. Then it was time to place the craft into the water.
As this was my first time riding a PWC on my own I was nervous, but I soon got the hang of the low speed riding. However, for me, reversing was the hardest task, as it is the complete opposite of what happens when you reverse in a car, especially when we had to collect Billy the Buoy from the water when he fell overboard!
After lunch it was time to go out onto open water and perform the fast riding and handling part of the course. We were advised to ride at no more than 6mph on the way out, which is a lot harder than you think, because unless you are concentrating you will not realise that you are pressing down on the throttle too hard.
When we stopped at the designated location, we were told this is where you drive fast. I love speed but I did feel nervous. But the butterflies were soon put to rest by Sam who said 'Go as fast as you feel comfortable' - and I did. I believe I reached 35mph on the straights, and channelled by my inner Valentino Rossi on the corners I had to remind myself that I should not lean too far or I would end up going for a swim.
On the way back to the marina, I contemplated everything I had learnt throughout the day, from controlling the speed of the craft to ensuring that I had enough space between me and other users, and making sure that I was riding between the relevant markings in the water.
We were then in for one last surprise! We had to jump off the end of the PWC and then climb back on board. I must be honest, I thought it would be freezing cold, but it was much warmer in the water than outside and perversely I wished I could have stayed in there a bit longer.
To tie it all up we ended with an introduction to a few simple knots that we would need to use when securing our PWC before we were presented with our licence.
The main thing I learnt from the experience was that when you are out on the water there is a sense of peace and tranquillity but you must respect it due to its power and unpredictability.